Sunday, 27 March 2016

Cake! Wholemeal Apple and Orange Cake (Nigel Slater Recipe)

After all that reading, writing and researching, I thought it was time for some cake!
Wholemeal Apple and Orange Cake
220g butter 
210g light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
250g wholemeal flour (I used self raising)
 lightly heaped teaspoon of baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon (I used Holy Lama cinnamon spice drops rather than ground)
200g apples (peeled weight)
100g sultanas (recipe says you can use raisins)
125g orange marmalade
finely grated zest of an orange
Demerara sugar for sprinkling on top
20cm round cake tin with a removable base, lined with paper.
  1. Oven set to 160C/gas mark 4.
  2. Beat butter and muscovado sugar together until light, fluffy and pale coffee-coloured.
  3. Lightly beat the eggs with a fork.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon.
  5. Core and roughly chop the apples into 1cm square pieces.
  6. Mix the chopped apples with the sultanas and marmalade.
  7. Add the beaten eggs a little at a time to the creamed butter and sugar, adding a spoonful of flour if the mixture curdles.
  8. Gently but firmly fold in the rest of the flour.
  9. Fold in the fruit and marmalade mixture, along with the grated orange zest.
  10. Spoon into the prepared cake tin, scatter a fine layer of Demerara over the top and bake for an hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out moist but without any cake mixture sticking to it.
  11. Cool before serving.

I made this 3 days ago and the first couple of pieces were really lovely, although I was a little disappointed that the flavour wasn't more 'orangey'.

We had a piece this afternoon and it has become rather stodgy, probably because there is a load of fruit in.

I would definitely make this again, but it would be where I knew it would be eaten within 2 days.

100 Letters from Arthur - so much more I couldn't include ...

.... it was quite, no very, frustrating not to put in everything I wanted in the book.  It didn't take me long to realise that I was never going to finish the book if I kept interrupting myself with research, searching for more information etc.

I therefore decided I was going to keep the book to 200 pages (OK, it was 201 pages, so not far wrong) and from that the discipline was made easier.

The only time I allowed myself to deviate was when I came across any soldier's name in a letter - I did my best to identify them, mainly using a great site called Lives of the First World War -

I tend to agree with their statement on the opening page

We believe that each and every one of the 8 million who served during WW1 deserves to be remembered.

I felt that every soldier I could identify helped to remember them.

Anyway - the book - two things I did want to include - maps - one of where Arthur was captured by German Troops ...

... so here it is, above, with the Lancashire Fusiliers not far from the number 18 top right.  I couldn't find a good enough image to pass the publishing checks unfortunately.  I felt this would have given Arthur's capture some context, but anyway, it is here now.

The other image was what I thought of as 'The Freedom Walk' - in Arthur's last letter to home in November 1918, he listed all the towns he had walked to, and through, when he'd been freed.  Again, couldn't get one clear enough for the book, so here we go ...

In Arthur's letter of 21st November 1918 he confirmed he had travelled through Namur, Mons, Valenciennes and Peronne – this would have meant walking, or marching, for around 170km – estimated time 36 hours!  Here's the text of that letter too:-

Dear Father & Mother

You will perhaps have got my F.C by now and will understand we are now free. It may surprise you to know that I have never been in Germany but have been behind his lines working all the time and we have retreated with him from in front of Peronne to as far back as Namur where he done a jerry and left us without a bite we would have been in a stew if it hadn't been for the Belgians who couldn't make us welcome enough in their houses, we marched back and came in contact with our fellows. I left Mons this morning and am now in Valenciennes its good to get a crust of English bread in your mits it's like cake to jerrys. Well I hope I shall be home for Xmas as I'm making for Blighty Tuts suit. So Good Luck and Health to all. Arthur.

Friday, 25 March 2016

100 Letters from Arthur

Well, I've finally finished my 'non-fiction' effort!

From working in his father's Carlisle Clog Shop, Arthur Sproat joined the Army as a Private in the Lancashire Fusiliers.

His letters to home, starting in 1916, came from Colchester Barracks, where he received training and preparation for active service.

During 1917, Arthur served in France and Flanders, sometimes in the trenches, and continued sending letters home.

In March 1918, Arthur was gassed, captured by German troops and became a POW until November 1918.

His sister kept both his own letters, and some written by family and friends, and most are in good condition. I have transcribed the letters, as far as possible, to provide a unique insight into his life and wartime experience. Some additional material has been included to complete Arthur's story.

One third of royalties earned from any sales of '100 Letters from Arthur' will be given to Combat Stress, Registered Charity No. 256353. (

It took far longer than I'd imagined it would.  We'd had 'Uncle Arthur's' World War 1 letters from the trenches since they were passed to us when my partner's mum passed away in March 2013, but the idea of sorting through them, trying to read them, putting them in date order .... was overwhelming for quite a while. 

It also seemed a bit weird, trespassing on such personal property, but now that it is done, it will always be available for reference of such important times.

I started last year, picking out postcards, seeing if I could familiarise myself with any of the people on there. Luckily, some of them had been posted, or even just had a name written on them, so that helped.

Arthur Sproat - they're his letters!
But every postcard with a name on had me searching online to see if I could find out more about the World War 1 soldier it portrayed, so that didn't work.
I finally set aside some time and scanned every letter, postcard and other document - over 100 letters from soldier Arthur to his family, plus sundry letters and cards to him from his friends and family - and other photographs and documents to give it a bit of context.
At the moment, it is available as a large paperback only - - just waiting for it to be uploaded to Amazon too - because the book contains so many scans of original letters etc. I'm not convinced it will be that great on Kindle - but I plan to experiment this weekend and find out.
But I think I'll enjoy a bit of the Easter Break first!